Nootropics are naturally occurring or man-made foods, supplements or drugs that improve any or all of memory, focus, motivation or intelligence. They are commonly and interchangeably also called smart drugs or cognitive enhancers. And depending on who you ask, they are the best thing since sliced bread.
It is only relatively recently that nootropics have become popular in the mainstream. The first one, however, was developed over 50 years ago, in 1963, by Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea. It was called piracetam.
Though there are today many more options, piracetam is still commonly used today and considered by many as one of the best nootropics. It is especially suitable for beginners or anyone taking cognitive enhancers for the first time.
As part of the nootropics development process, Dr. Giurgea also laid out five criteria he thought a substance should meet before it is labeled as a nootropic:
- It should enhance memory and learning.
- It should improve the resistance of learned behaviors and memories to things that tend to disrupt them. An example of such a condition is hypoxia (deprivation of adequate oxygen supply).
- The substance should protect the brain against different chemical and physical assaults, like barbiturates.
- It should increase the efficiency of the mechanism controlling neuronal firing in both the cerebral cortex and sub-cerebral cortex areas of the brain.
- It should be non-toxic and have very few or no side-effects.
Realistically, few nootropics meet all the criteria laid out by Dr. Giurgea. One thing they all do, however, is benefit thinking and mental energy. Not following the five guidelines leaves the exact nootropics definition a little vague. This lack of clarity means that it is sometimes hard to say exactly what is and isn’t one. Anything from everyday substances like caffeine and Omaga-3, to more controlled products like Adderall, can and often is considered a nootropic.
Something nootropics definitely are not are miracle drugs. They will without a doubt help improve many cognitive functions, but you still need to put in some work. Things won’t come to you instantly, but they will come much quicker and easier.
In addition to helping you learn and generally improve thinking, nootropics also contribute to your brain’s well-being in the long term. They improve its resistance against the normal effects of aging and help protect it against cognitive disorders like dementia.
How exactly nootropics work will differ from product to product. Some increase the supply of oxygen-rich blood to the brain. Others enhance the growth of brain cells. In the latter case, the growth occurs in a way that develops the transmission of impulses throughout the nervous system. This translates to faster and more efficient communication, as well as improved memory and learning abilities.
Combining, or stacking, nootropics is also both possible and commonly practiced. As soon as I was comfortable with and understood my starter nootropic Noopept, I jumped into stacking both feet in and have never looked back. Stacking creates a powerful synergistic effect where the combined, sometimes complementary, components produce a much greater sum.